John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight began showing Catheter Cowboy commercials this week to educate Donald Trump about affairs. This article originally ran in Smashpipe on December 31, 2015.

By Tony Sokol

Candidates Make the Best Manchurian Chicken

Does it seem like the presidential candidates are talking out of their asses half the time and pulling things out of it the other half? Do you find yourself scratching your head every time you hear a soundbite? That might be by design. The candidates aren’t trying to baffle you. They are trying to hypnotize you. There’s a technique in hypnosis called confusion and there’s no one better at confusing people than politicians. I’ve always thought it was because they really didn’t know what they were talking about or who they were talking to, but no, this is genius. I talked to one of the top hypnotherapists in New York City, Elena Beloff, about it, and within minutes I wanted to vote for her. It’s that effective.

The confusion technique short circuits critical thought. I know what you’re thinking, there are a couple guys on those podiums who sound like they’ve never had a critical thought in his life, but they are not the only ones messing with your minds. Let me be perfectly clear, every time Bernie Sanders says “let me be perfectly clear,” he’s setting the pace for a linguistic shot across the bow just as much as Donald Trump drops anchors in your cerebral cortex whenever he changes the subject in the middle of a sentence.

Confused? Elena Beloff, that  top New York City hypnotist, would say that’s a good thing, for the candidates at least, which she should be. To paraphrase Rick Blaine speaking of Ilsa Lund to Victor Laslo in the classic movie Casablanca, she did her best convince me she could still teach me something and I let her.

“In hypnotherapy there are many ways to hypnotize,” Beloff explained. “There are two different approaches, authoritarian and permissive. You can use one or the other or the mixture of both.

“The authoritarian approach means you lead, you take the role of a guide and protector, but you do it in a paternal way which allows you to be authoritative. You never doubt yourself as a hypnotist. You are perfectly clear about every single thing you are doing while hypnotizing, and even if you are not, you make any faux pas look like it’s part of the plan. Because they are.  This type of confidence makes everything look and sound perfect and makes everything work as you set out to be.  You show undeniable confidence and knowledge in your field and naturally use direct commands and suggestions. They undeniably work.”

That made a lot of sense coming from Elena, who sounded like she knew what she was talking about. Her undeniable command of the topic was positively infectious. I could easily imagine her in a position of powerful influence.

“It is innate in all humans to look up to the authority and even naturally want submit to the authority,” Beloff said. “People somehow tend to enjoy that. They want to follow their alpha leader and be part of the flock, closer to their ‘bright and confident’ authoritarian leader. For example, aside from the political views, I think, to many, Trump’s undeniable confidence, fearlessness and alpha-like quality is magnetic  on some subconscious level. They feel safe and protected.”

Something in the back of my mind told me that this top hypnotist was doing something in the back of my mind. If Rosie the Riveter, who died this year, could get women to wear the pants and fill manufacturing plants during World War II, candidates could plant subliminal advertising by consistently hitting their talking points and once in a while saying they loved pizza or hated ISIS. I was reminded of the two-minute hate films that were projected to the ravenous audiences in George Orwell’s book 1984.

“Propaganda is a form of hypnosis,” Elena declared. “By definition, propaganda is a form of communication, often biased or misleading in nature, aimed at influencing and altering the attitude of a population toward some cause, position or political agenda in an effort to form a consensus to a standard set of belief patterns.”

For the past thirty years, the Fox News Network, which sold itself as the alternative to a liberal media that never really existed, has led a large portion of the population to shift their thinking to the extreme right by staying steadfastly on point. Many of their guests parrot the exact phrasing that other pundits have used, regardless of facts or logic.

“Hypnosis, by definition, is a bypass of a critical faculty and establishment of selective thinking,” Elena said. “Hypnosis can be used with individuals or groups. To bypass that critical faculty various techniques can be employed. In hypnotherapy, hypnotists use hypnotic inductions. Advertisers use music, visuals and stories. In propaganda, authoritarianism can be used and a process of pushing various emotional buttons, like danger or nationalism.”

“For example, Hitler was good at authoritarianism and pushing the nationalism buttons: ‘We are one, we are the German nation. We have no ranks or classes,’” Beloff detailed. “He also began his propaganda with youth, those with ‘fresh and unfiltered’ minds that looked up to him as a leading authority. They hailed him out loud for long periods of time, kind of creating a repetitive mass trance-inducing form of mantra, ‘hail hail hail’ all in chorus. It is very powerful to hear something like that being expressed by thousands of people at the same time.”

One of the most talked about topics in the latest series of presidential debate was how the candidates would respond to terrorism. People in the polls appear to respond to this, Fox News has been selling candidates, fear and the flag since its inception. It was at this point that I asked to subscribe to the newsletters of Elena’s cult of personality.

“Actually Sufis use a form of meditation by focusing out loud on a respective phrase or word all in unison for extended periods of time. It is very much trance-inducing and euphoric,” Elena intoned. “It makes people feel good in the end, kind of connected and one. I think on some subconscious level we all want to be connected whether in groups or at least to one or a few people. We are all social beings.”

Much of the 2016 Presidential Election rests on the head of social media. Troll me if you wish, but the immediate gratification of the digital age appears to be a perfect delivery system for political junkies.

“This doesn’t mean that current politicians are using propaganda though,” Beloff explained. “I think it is almost impossible in this country use propaganda in its purest form. Because unlike in Hitler’s times, in the US we have various parties and plenty of opposition, so if one politician is pushing a false belief and agenda, he would immediately be counteracted by another politician to collapse their false statement.

“There is no one leader to listen to here and tune out everything else. There is diversity in politics, which makes it hard for pure propaganda to work coming from our leaders, to mislead people and make them do outrageous things. However, today on the world stage we can see some propaganda working.  For example Isis using social media outlets with well-produced videos. They are pushing an old nationalism button. They call out their alike, those young people with grievances, who feel unaccepted or hurt because of their nationality or religion.

“The main underlying message of Isis is ‘if you don’t feel like you belong, we are the home.’ Imagine a young man from a middle Eastern country in the UK or US who feels unaccepted because of his  skin color and religious beliefs This is pretty much how Maajid Nawaz felt who became a radical and had no empathy to the US September 11 attacks at the time. People like him could easily be recruited by Isis. Nawaz has changed his views since then, and wrote a book with Sam Harris called The Islam and the Future of Tolerance, explaining the nature of radicalism and the misleading messages of ‘half-truths’ which ought to be debunked to try end today’s crisis.”

That made me feel a little safer, but not enough to ignore that people are moving in step with what the media conducts. Some of the runners in this race don’t have to spend their own money to get their message across because they come ready-made for their TV close-ups.

“This doesn’t mean that politicians today aren’t trying to use forms of influence to promote their views, and most importantly to promote themselves to get more votes and become a winner in the election,” she said.

Beloff was the mystery hypnotist in the film “The Crowd” that was the centerpiece for Philippe Parreno’s New York City multimedia art extravaganza “H{N0YPN(Y}OSIS.” She put 100 people in a state of trance for the film. Imagine what someone like her could do at a campaign stop. So our next president might ascend to the White House because of their covert hypnosis techniques.

“I don’t like to use that phrase, covert hypnosis techniques, for the politicians,” Elena countered. “It’s misleading. I simply see candidates who use various forms of influence in order to gain followers. These methods remind me of some of the techniques of influence we use in hypnosis. Like for example, authoritarianism, cognitive dissonance, Trojan horse and anchoring techniques.”

It is a shame that Elena was born in Russia and isn’t a viable candidate for the presidency. Although Ted Cruz was able to pull a Jedi mind trick on the voters not to care that he was born in Canada.

“Cognitive discordance is when you introduce two opposing ideas; confuse people and then offer a solution, which serves as an embedding command. Trojan horse is pretty common, it’s when you bring up some positive memory from the past, make people feel the emotion of that memory and associate yourself or your message with it. Some leaders even use hand gestures, by pointing at the selves to anchors your positive feeling with them. ”

It certainly felt good hearing it explained by someone who could break it down for the masses to understand. The hypnotist, who Good Morning America considers one of the best in New York, made me feel like a grammar school student who finally understood how to do fractions. Even though I felt I heard this before and would be hearing it again, often.

“Repetition in hypnosis is powerful, especially if you build on slowly with a rhythm,” Elena said. “Many politicians use that, kind of creating a momentum, for example ‘and we are going to build this nation, we will be the leader again, we will make this country great again and we will defeat the enemy.’  It may sound like a preacher’s climax in the speech, and then you add ‘with my presidency we will climb to the top.’  The latter is a suggestion. This is an old and classic technique. Many politicians tend to use that. I like it when it comes naturally, though. I see Governor Christie often use this technique, but find it a bit forced.

“However, I don’t think that the politicians necessarily study those techniques or hypnosis for that matter. In fact, lots of methods they use come naturally to some of these politicians, especially with the years of experience working with big audiences. They know what strings to pull and how to get attention in the same way comedians know, listen and lead their audience or the producers of successful TV shows producing attention grabbing content. You have to know and feel your audience.”

This would mean that someone with some experience on, say, a reality show or comedy TV appearances, might have a leg up on the competition, not just because the brand laid the groundwork but by their training. Stump speeches are like comedy tours, a kind of matriculation in a formative political education.

That was all I had to hear. I, like most people, am suspicious of insidious influence. I wanted to know whether we are all being brainwashed.

“I don’t think so,” Beloff said. “People are pretty smart these days and choose what to read and watch and who to vote for. Again we live in a diverse society. Sure, there is way too much influence everywhere, but I don’t think we are being brainwashed by our leaders here in the same way people were brainwashed in Germany in 1930s and 40s, at least not in the U.S.”

But that doesn’t stop focus groups on TV who get stuck in the rut of some “vast right-wing conspiracy” that pigeonholes Hillary Clinton as someone who can’t control her email or bladder.

“This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use critical thinking when exposing ourselves to TV and other forms of media,” Beloff offered. “And clinical hypnosis is one of the many ways to help train yourself to think critically and build on your own alpha-like mentality.”

I found that empowering and decided to cast a write-in vote next year for a certain well-regarded New York City hypnotist.

Follow NYC Hypnotist Elena Beloff here.

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Elena Beloff is married now and practices under the name Elena Mosaner at Hypnocloud.

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